June 5 Flashback: ‘No moral truth’

June 5 Flashback: ‘No moral truth’ June 5, 2022

From June 5, 2013, “Bishop squirms on the hot-seat in Phoenix“:

Illinois bishop faces challenging audience at talk on same-sex marriage,” Michael Clancy writes for National Catholic Reporter.

And it seems that Bishop Thomas Paprocki was not up to that challenge.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., walked into a beehive when he agreed to speak about same-sex marriage before a small audience in Phoenix over the weekend. But at least the bishop was there, taking the stings.

Paprocki joined Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a longtime advocate for gay and lesbian people, on the stage Friday in front of about 150 people at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ.

The presentation … featured opening remarks from Paprocki and Gramick, then questions from the audience.

Most of those questions, it seems, were directed at the bishop. And he had no answers. Or, rather, he had a lot of answers — contradictory ones, which amounts to the same thing as not having any.

One audience member asked the bishop how he viewed King David’s relationship with two wives if marriage has not changed through history. Paprocki said that was a long time before the Catholic church and said the questioner was arguing for polygamy.

Let’s give Paprocki the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not stupid enough to really believe that “the questioner was arguing for polygamy.” The questioner has simply pointed out a contradiction in the bishop’s argument. Paprocki said marriage has not changed through history and the questioner pointed out that it most certainly had changed over time — that marriage in the Bible was very, very different from marriage today.

The questioner actually underestimates the number of wives David had — he had at least seven, plus at least 10 concubines and one royal bed-warmer. But the point is clear: Marriage for King David did not mean anything like the same thing it means for Bishop Paprocki.

The bishop, having lost that point badly, changes the rules: “Paprocki said that was a long time before the Catholic church.”

OK, fine, let’s go with that. New rule: Marriages from “a long time before the Catholic church” don’t count and we mustn’t refer to them as meaningful models for Catholic marriage. Got it.

Next question:

Another audience member asked about marriage between elderly people who would never have children. Paprocki recommended reading the biblical story of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who got pregnant at an old age.

So much for Paprocki’s new rule. Consistency and logic do not seem to be the bishop’s strong suits.

In any case, it seems that you now have the bishop’s permission to defend the sanctity of marriage by raping your wife’s maidservant. (Or did Paprocki not want us to read that part of “the biblical story of Abraham’s wife, Sarah”?)

Bishop Paprocki’s squirming evasiveness, his shifting appeals to scripture and his logical contradictions were not the worst part of his performance at this event. The worst part was his steadfast refusal to listen. At all.

And that refusal to listen resulted in the silliest thing Paprocki said in Phoenix:“If there is no moral truth, only alternatives, then everything should be OK,” he said.

“There is no moral truth, only alternatives,” isn’t the other side of Paprocki’s argument. It’s simply his self-serving, inaccurate, willfully ignorant caricature of the opposing side.

Whenever someone says, “I disagree with you, Thomas Paprocki, about a particular moral question,” his brain somehow twists this into “There is no moral truth.”

This is the same game Southern Baptist Bishop Al Mohler regularly plays whenever he encounters anyone with a moral view that differs from his own. Here’s what I wrote earlier this year in response to the Paprockian arrogance of Mohler’s post lamenting “The Marginalization of Moral Argument in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate“:

Al Mohler does not listen.

If he listened, he would understand that a demand for equality is a moral demand. If he listened, he would understand that moral argument hasn’t been marginalized, it has been marshaled against him. There is a moral argument being made, forcefully and repeatedly, and it is an argument that demonstrates the immorality of Al Mohler and other defenders of inequality.

Like Paprocki, Mohler refuses to imagine any possible view of “moral truth” other than his own. Anyone who makes a moral argument challenging his own moral assertions, he claims, must be attacking morality itself. Either you agree with him or else you’re a nihilist. Without Mohler, everything is permitted.

Read the original post here. This one struck me as worth revisiting not because my post had anything profound or original to contribute, but because it’s a reminder of how, nine years later, so little has changed in the vapid arguments put forward by people like Mohler and Paprocki. They’re still not listening.

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